written by:
photos by:
April 19, 2012
Originally published in The Now 99
as
Time Share

On a lakeside plot outside Toronto, four friends forge a new kind of vacation house. 

Communal living vacation home wooden structures

For Karina Inzunza, Graham Barker, Melana Janzen, and John McMinn (pictured left to right), a shared vacation home on Georgian Bay was the perfect opportunity to pool resources, split costs, and create an extended family unit.

Photo by 
1 / 14
Wooden guest cabin rooms with ladder

The vacation complex is designed to promote an easy flow between the two families' spaces, which include guest cabins and a shared porch for hanging out and eating.

Photo by 
2 / 14
Outdoor wooden activity porch

The large wraparound porch links the two main houses and two guest cabins, and is the site of many impromptu shared meals.

Photo by 
3 / 14
outdoor wooden hanging bed

Two-year-old Annika and five-year-old Soren make music on the "nap swing," a popular hangout spot for kids and adults alike.

Photo by 
4 / 14
Modern playroom with tall windows

McMinn, an architect, helps Soren construct a TinkerToy tower. The cowhide rug is from Perfect Leather Goods, and the Wassily Chair is by Marcel Breuer for Knoll.

Photo by 
5 / 14
Minimalist wooden house structure with tall windows

A view of the exterior of the structure, showing the two families' separate living spaces anchored by a single broad porch.

Photo by 
6 / 14
Outdoor wooden house structure and porch

Barker, a software executive and former professional drummer, describes the challenge of the project as such: "It’s the expression of two commingling family structures, with respect for the need for individuality at times."

Photo by 
7 / 14
Lofty kids bedroom with wooden ceiling

As shown here, the orientation of the two houses provides both privacy and occasional moments of permeability; a peek through the window above the master bed reveals neighbors across the way.

Photo by 
8 / 14
Indoors old-fashioned metal fire stove

The structures share a solar panel, but the families control their own home's heat level with a wood-burning stove.

Photo by 
9 / 14
Simple kids bedroom bunk bed with ladder

Soren and Annika share a lofted bedroom and a pair of bunks. In Barker and Inzunza's house, this space is used as an office and music room.

Photo by 
10 / 14
Urban minimalist kitchen dining room

McMinn and Janzen's kitchen opens onto a double-height living and dining area.

Photo by 
11 / 14
Outdoor natural long wooden bench

In addition to spaces for dining and napping, the porch shelters a kayak and this hanging bench-cum-balance beam made of salvaged tree trunks.

Photo by 
12 / 14
Outdoor wooden hallway multiple units

What else is the porch good for? Tricycle races, of course.

Photo by 
13 / 14
Communal living vacation home floor plan

Here, a floor plan of the shared structure, called the CP Harbour House, which was designed by architects (and residents) Melana Janzen and John McMinn.

Photo by 
14 / 14
Communal living vacation home wooden structures

For Karina Inzunza, Graham Barker, Melana Janzen, and John McMinn (pictured left to right), a shared vacation home on Georgian Bay was the perfect opportunity to pool resources, split costs, and create an extended family unit.

Project 
CP Harbour House
Architect 

Sharing a vacation home is a common arrangement. But sharing an architectural and conceptual experiment—as well as a linked basement, sprawling deck, and utility bills—takes more imagination, and that’s the idea architects Melana Janzen and John McMinn developed for their “cottage” near Toronto. Together with a couple of friends they built a complex, not quite one house and not quite two, that can accommodate both families at once under the shelter of a giant covered porch.

Outdoor wooden activity porch

The large wraparound porch links the two main houses and two guest cabins, and is the site of many impromptu shared meals.

The idea of a rustic second home was attractive to the couple, who live with their kids—five-year-old Soren and two-year-old Annika—in an apartment in downtown Toronto. McMinn’s friends Graham Barker and Karina Inzunza became their partners after Barker and Inzunza got the chance to buy a rare waterfront lot on Georgian Bay, “a community of creative people, a lot of ex-hippies and artists and poets,” says Barker. Both families wanted space to entertain, McMinn and Janzen needed a bedroom for the kids, and Barker and Inzunza needed a home office and a music room.

How to fit it all? They considered building tiny neighboring cabins, but the architects looked for a more collective solution. Tight zoning regulations meant they could only have one “house,” so McMinn and Janzen stretched the definition. Their final scheme consists of a massive shed—a post-and-beam structure of Douglas fir, 20 feet high at its apex—that shelters two separate, fully insulated structures. They’re connected underground in a linked basement, where two mechanical rooms hold water heaters and an electrical system (solar panels on the roof offset power from the grid).

outdoor wooden hanging bed

Two-year-old Annika and five-year-old Soren make music on the "nap swing," a popular hangout spot for kids and adults alike.

Aboveground, each couple has a 15-by-30-foot home with views to the outside, plus an adjoining sleeping cabin for guests. “There is an intentionality about what is separate and what is shared,” Janzen says. The expense and maintenance of the electrical systems are pooled and the outdoor spaces are common ground. Almost every day, communal lunches and dinner parties unfold on the porch, which is outfitted with swings and Japanese lanterns.

The mostly symmetrical layout of the compound, McMinn says, precludes a sense of territoriality. “The two houses and cabins have a kind of equality,” he says. That’s distinct from the typical family compound in this region and elsewhere, where small cabins usually orbit a main house. “There’s always a question,” McMinn says: “‘Are we going to have dinner on their side or on our side?’”

This comes up often, because the complex has become a year-round meeting place for the two families, who have an unusual bond: The kids call Barker and Inzunza, who is Chilean, tío and tía, and Barker says they’re “practicing for a new stage of life” as grandparents. They all come together for singalongs with guitar or mandolin, often joined by people from nearby cottages—some of whom grew up with Barker, who has summered on Georgian Bay since he was young. All four agree that an inclusive atmosphere is paramount. “Community is important to us,” Inzunza says. “Through music, through food, through entertaining, it’s important to bring people together.”

Modern playroom with tall windows

McMinn, an architect, helps Soren construct a TinkerToy tower. The cowhide rug is from Perfect Leather Goods, and the Wassily Chair is by Marcel Breuer for Knoll.

Five Tips for Designing for Community

Make it simple to maintain.
The property is partially off the grid and designed to avoid problems typical of cold climates—for example, the water lines drain into the mechanical room, which is heated all winter to keep the pipes from freezing.

Give everyone control over their space.
Although the structures share a solar panel array, the families heat their individual spaces with wood.
46. Create flexible space for entertaining and play.
A spacious wraparound deck accommodates a wide range of activities, from tricycle riding to communal sunset cocktails to naps on the bed swing.

Allow people to be together and apart.
The houses are oriented to the water but also to look away from each other. Insulation keeps noise at bay.

Food matters.
Each house has its own well-equipped kitchen and several dining areas, indoors and out, that foster an easy atmosphere of communal meals and impromptu gatherings.

 

For more photographs of the project, please view our slideshow.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016